Sheila Bennet (Evelyn Keyes) is returning to New York City from a trip to Cuba. She has with her Fifty Thousand dollars worth of smuggled diamonds and a case of smallpox. When she arrives at Penn Station she is being followed by Treasury Agent Johnson (Barry Kelley). She mails the diamonds to her home address and calls her husband Matt Krane (Charles Korvin). Matt tells her to check into a hotel for a couple days before coming home. He says he doesn’t want the feds to find out where they live.
Sheila checks into the hotel. She’s not feeling well so she asks the bellhop to sneak her out so she can see a doctor. She ends up at Dr. Ben Wood’s (William Bishop) clinic. The doctor misdiagnosis her and gives her some medicine to take. In the waiting room is a little girl that is scheduled to be admitted to the hospital with whooping cough. Sheila, not knowing she has smallpox, infects the girl. When the girl is in the hospital they realize that there is more wrong with her than just whooping cough. Eventually they find out that she has smallpox.
While Sheila has been in Cuba her husband has been having an affair with her sister Francie (Lola Albright). With Sheila now at home, things are on hold with Francie. Matt bides his time until the diamonds show up in the mail. Skipping out on Sheila and Francie Matt goes to his local fence Anthony Moss (Art Smith). Moss is not buying today. It seems the Feds were there and the stones are hot at the moment. Moss tells Matt to come back in ten days. While Matt cools his heels Sheila finds out about the double cross and confronts Francie. Francie commits suicide. Sheila is now slowly dying but on the warpath. With hatred burning inside her she refuses to die until she can confront Matt and get her revenge.
Meanwhile another smallpox victim is admitted to the hospital. The man is a porter at Penn Station. With a city filled with eight million people patient zero could be anyone anywhere. The mayor begins a massive vaccination project. While people are being vaccinated the Health Department and the Customs department are both looking for the same person, Sheila Bennet.
“The Killer That Stalked New York” was released in 1950 and was directed by Earl McEvoy. The movie is a drama and a film noir. The story is told in the semi-documentary style and was shot on location in New York City. It is one of Columbia Picture’s lower budget films.
The combination of the medical emergency and the manhunt for a jewel smuggler was interesting. The methods the authorities use to find both the smuggler and the smallpox carrier seem to be quite similar. It’s not a thrill a minute but it is interesting. The acting is competent and the backdrop of New York City adds a touch of loneliness to Sheila’s plight.
Although not as provocative as “Panic In the Streets” 1950 it was still an enjoyable noir. Sheila Bennet may not be as vicious as Jack Palance’s “Blackie” but she manages to hold her own when it comes to vengeance and retribution. Hell may have no fury like a woman scorned, but a scorned woman with smallpox is even deadlier. Whatever she has planned for him, he deserves.
The film is based on a real smallpox outbreak that happened in New York City in 1947. The story was originally printed in Cosmopolitan Magazine article in 1948. Over 6,350,000 New Yorkers were vaccinated against the disease. Five million in the first two weeks. It was the largest mass vaccination effort ever conducted for smallpox in the United States. It was also the last outbreak of smallpox in the U.S. The quick response to the emergency resulted in only twelve people getting the disease. Ten of them recovered and two died. The entire event went from March 1, 1947 to April 24, 1947.